Ben Arzate’s The Christmas Movie is an excellent example of the author letting the atmosphere do the heavy lifting. There’s a healthy dose of surreal, semi-supernatural horror involved in the story, but it’s the unsettling feeling of something not being right that carries the message home. The discovery of a potentially unknown television Christmas movie from decades past quickly transforms for the protagonist from a sense that he’d found lost treasure to the ominous feeling that he’s obtained a cursed object. What initially seems like a particularly low-budget, low-quality Christmas movie broadcast by a Christian television network in the 1980s begins to produce a sense of dread as the movie appears to change with each new viewing. As the protagonist obsessively immerses himself within repeated viewings of the movie, an impression of familiarity becomes apprehension. As he prepares to return home to his family for the holidays, we’re left with the same sense of trepidation–bordering on panic–the protagonist experiences.
This story was released as part of the AntiChristmas event at http://www.godless.com for December of 2021. You can pick it up for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the Godless app to your preferred mobile devices. The link is below:
Celestial/Chthonic provides the reader with two vastly different stories delivering a familiar hallucinatory characteristic one might expect from Arzate, if one has been exposed to some of his other writing. Angel Lust escorts the reader on a journey that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, not only for the reader but for Sylvia as well. Is there something strange taking place? Is this some recurring, disorienting nightmare or is the actress simply supplying us with a spectacular example of method acting? I know which interpretation I choose. You’ll have to find your own. Outhouse Boy is equal parts heartbreaking and disgusting, telling the tale of an unwanted pregnancy and an infant cast away in filth. Surviving, against all odds, the infant grows into a young man hoping for the same companionship we all crave. These two stories definitely show the reader both the range and distinct flair in style and substance that will continue to mark Arzate as a fantastic writer.
This two-story collection is available as part of the 31 Days of Godless event, celebrating Halloween at http://www.godless.com. You can pick it up for yourself by going to the site or by downloading the app to your mobile device. The link is below:
If you haven’t read Arzate’s Elaine, I can vouch for the fact that it’s not necessary to enjoy I’m a Marionette. I also haven’t read the story that sets the stage for what we discover in these few pages. Amy wakes up in what appears to be an abandoned, run-down hotel room. Surrounded by filth and unfamiliar with how she found herself there, she grabs her purse and makes her way to her car parked outside. The atmosphere is oppressive and unsettling, and Arzate maintains that atmosphere throughout the tale. From that auspicious beginning, we soon discover that Amy, along with her mourning parents, has been searching for information regarding her missing brother, Chris. The last thing she remembers was deciding to purchase a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store before finding herself in the grimy hotel room. I’m a Marionette perfectly captures the fluid dream logic that makes the worst nightmares so challenging to shake. Amy finds herself led along by impulses she only barely comprehends–and certainly does not control–as she meanders through a world that feels only slightly like the real world she expects. We can’t help but witness Amy’s unsteady travel through this surreal, nightmare version of Wisconsin, as helpless as the dreamer when they don’t know they are dreaming. I couldn’t help but appreciate Ben Arzate’s rather different interpretation of a train station, as Amy flips through the apparently empty radio channels only to find one station broadcasting what sounded like the constant thrum of an approaching train. I found myself thinking, “That’s a different sort of train station.” I immediately picked up Elaine after finishing this story, and I suspect you might do the same. If it’s half as captivating and unnerving as I’m a Marionette, it’ll be worth the price of admission for sure. The three poems contained within the Godless exclusive edition feel perfectly in line with the story that precedes them, carrying the same surreal, dreamlike horror beyond the conclusion of the story itself.
This edition is exclusive to http://www.godless.com or from the Godless app, available on your favorite mobile devices. The link is below: